To Walk in Her Shoes

  • Jessica Herring
ArtistJessica Herring
MediumVideo (color, sound)
Duration06:59 min.
CreditCourtesy of the artist

Choreographer/Director/Performer: Jessica Herring
Videographers: Jessica Herring and Sylvia Herring

“I'll Never Stop Loving You” by Doris Day
“Protest” by Chapel Fou

When Jessica Herring was invited to contribute this piece to the Tilt West Journal, our curators asked her about her twenty-five years of experience as a classically-trained ballet and classical modern dancer. Jessica reflected on the physical and mental labor of dance as a form of expression, particularly the enormous amount of time that dancers spend practicing repetitive movements in order to convey the intentions of a given work and meet the expectations set forth by choreographers. Such labor often begins in an innocent and innocuous manner. Over time, the effort compounds, sometimes achieving a form of “perfection,” but often culminating in results that are quite different from the original seed of inspiration. Jessica believes this labor of practice and repetition has had a profound impact on how she understands herself, both within the world of dance and within the world at large.

In this video, Jessica’s choreography, costumes, and music choices challenge the viewer to consider the female body, gender roles and expectations, and the emotional labor often performed by women. The title, To Walk in Her Shoes, references the adage that one can never truly comprehend another’s lived experience unless they have walked a mile in that person’s shoes. We should exercise caution in our judgments of others because we may not understand the contexts shaping their lives and points of view. Likewise, we should be gentle when judging ourselves because we may not always recognize the factors and conditions that have influenced our own decisions. Often, such perspective is only available after a bit of time and distance.